Shane Claiborne’s Statement on Syria – Red Letter Christians

SyriaRight after 9/11, I asked a kid in my neighborhood what we should do in response.  His answer: “Those people did something very wrong…”  He thought pensively and continued, “But two wrongs don’t make a right.”  As Martin Luther King taught us, you cannot fight fire with fire, you only get a bigger fire.  You fight fire with water.  You fight violence with nonviolence.  You fight hatred with love.  As a Christian, a follower of Jesus the Prince of Peace, I am deeply troubled about the possibility of a military response to the violence in Syria.  Jesus consistently teaches us another way to respond to evil, a third way – neither fight nor flight.  He teaches that evil can be opposed without being mirrored, oppressors resisted without being emulated, enemies neutralized without being destroyed.  I am praying that the nonviolent imagination of Jesus and MLK would move the leaders of our country and our world to find another way forward than violence.  When I heard US military leaders calculating the collateral damage of an attack on Syria (“classified” information), something feels terribly wrong.  Christ once scolded his own disciple who tried to use the sword to protect him.  After healing the wounded persecutor, he said to Peter, “If you pick up the sword you will die by the sword. Put your sword back.”  Over and over we have tried to use the sword – in Iraq, in Afghanistan, now possibly in Syria… and the sword has failed.  The cure becomes as bad as the disease.  When we fight fire with fire, we only get a bigger fire, and a bigger mess.   Two wrongs do not make a right.
Photo Credit: ValeStock / Shutterstock.com
SOURCE:  Shane Claiborne’s Statement on Syria – Red Letter Christians.

 

Inspiring Quotes…

3)  We turn Christianity into a culture rather than a lifestyle.
We have turned Christianity into a market.  We have reduced Christianity to products we consume, sell, and advertise.  We are more about profits than prophets.  Christianity has become a culture rather than a lifestyle.  We’ve been taught to consume Christian products rather than being Christian.  We’ve been taught to be salespeople for Jesus rather than true followers of Jesus.  Living a Christian lifestyle means Christ’s love has penetrated so deep into our heart that our lives begin to embody that love in real and tangible ways.  We want everyone to know they are loved.  We want everyone fed, clothed, housed, welcomed, included, employed, supported, tutored, visited, forgiven, and freed.
SOURCE: Shawn Casselberry: Gandhi-Style Evangelism | Red Letter Christians.

He Told Us How To Do It……

The Lord’s prayer is rightly the most spoken prayer in Christianity. But there are several statement in that prayer that are for the most part glossed over by many in the current day church.  One of the most obvious is “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.  Here is what Martin Luther thought of these words:

The good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.

As expected, due to Luther’s extremely low image of self-worth he puts it all on God and nothing on man. Why would we need to pray that God’s will be done if it will happen irregardless of what we do or say? Luther was one of the primary people to help turn Christianity into a seemingly do-nothing religion. He has convinced so many that all you need to do is to say the right words and then get a “get into heaven free” card to use after your death.  Luther adamantly believed that all of us should be able to read the words of God, not just the Pope and his bastions. I certainly thank him for  helping to make that happen. I just wished he had not focused so much on one particular verse (you are saved by grace alone)  in order to justify his personal feelings and seemingly ignored so many of Jesus’ commands.

Jesus, through his many words in the Gospels made it ultimately clear how we as his followers were to make God’s kingdom come to earth. We are to love God with all our hearts and love our fellow man, even our enemies.

Was Jesus wasting his breath giving us all his commands when everything was actually pre-determined and set in stone?

Another of the perhaps the most quoted verse in the Bible has the most important verse glossed over by us Christians. The Great Commission as it has been called says:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

We do a great job of baptizing and an ok job of teaching but why do we almost totally ignore his words to obey his commands?

Jesus told us how to make heaven on earth. He almost gave us a roadmap to make it happen. I personally look at that roadmap daily and try to keep my life well within the lines. Do I do this perfectly? Obviously not, but I will strive till the day I die to fulfill his words and  yes, obey is commands.

Lost Energy….

I want to apologize to those of you who read this blog. It seems I have just lost the energy to continue to post here on a regular basis. The futility of convincing some to look at Jesus’ words in a different light has simply become too exhausting for me. Convincing people to concentrate on “being” a Christian as apposed to just believing certain things is more than I can handle right now.

While I will continue to do my best in being a better follower of Jesus Christ and that means listening to his words and doing my best to follow his commands I need step back from RLL for a while to take a break. If/when I am rejuvenated I will continue again but maybe with a different format. I don’t know right now. Please be patient with my lost fervor….

Mislabeling the Word of God – Red Letter Christians

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” – John 1:1, ESV

The Bible is not the “Word of God.” It is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It contains words of God. It even talks about the Word of God… but it is still not THE Word of God. The Word of God is actually Jesus Christ. Not the words of Jesus, but Christ himself. This little misunderstanding has created a whole heap of confusion about the point Christianity and how we are to use Scripture in our lives.

While I would like to claim I am being brave with this topic, I was actually inspired by Zack Hunt’s recent article, The Bible Isn’t Perfect And It Says So Itself. As he has opened the Pandora’s box for discussion, I felt compelled to chime in. My contribution to is not to question the inerrancy of Scripture, which I believe, but define differently from most, but rather it’s place in the mental, spiritual, and religious life of Christians.

Source Yaholo Hoyt: Mislabeling the Word of God – Red Letter Christians.

 

Another inspirational post over at Red Letter Christians that needs no comments. Click on the source above to see the whole post….

Jesus Was A Radical…..

Jesus says some stuff in the inaugural speech of his ministry that really upsets the status quo of both the religious and non-religious.  In essence, he says, “If you are to follow me as King of this newly inaugurated Kingdom of God, you will need to start loving your enemies as much as yourself.  You will need to start getting creative in how you deal with your oppressors in order to choose the way of love and reconciliation rather than the way of revenge and contempt.  In fact, when you live as peacemakers, you best reflect what it looks like to be children of God.  Those of you that choose this way of life will be blessed.”

Source:  The Violence of Peacemaking – Jon Huckins – Red Letter Christians.

Jesus was a radical!  There is no getting around that fact.  Many of my conservative friends and their associated Christian denominations try to get around the fact that Jesus was a radical by pretty much ignoring much of what he said.  They instead pick and choose those bible verses that seem, at least on the surface, to align with their current worldview.  They hunker down in their pews ranting about all the sinners and such in the big bad world out there. They madly choose to only associate with others who think like them.  They reject any change in their current way of seeing the world for fear that they will fall down an imaginary  slippery slope into the abject sinfulness they see all around them. They  choose to concentrate on their personal salvation instead of Jesus’ “love your enemy” mantra. Loving your enemies is a concept very foreign to them.   In other words they are internally focused rather than outwardly focused.

In the kingdom of God that Jesus spoke so freely about, Christians are instructed to be peacemakers.  In God’s Kingdom there is no ‘us” vs. “them”. We are all children of God, that means each and every soul on this earth. It seems many Christians today would rather spend their money building lavish churches with all the creature comforts rather than making sure no one goes to bed hungry. We would rather buy that second or third vacation home rather than support humanitarian efforts around the world. We would rather buy that luxury car rather than pay a little more in taxes to insure that healthcare is a right for all of us rather than a privilege for only those who can afford it.

How can so many of us be so blind to so much that is in our bibles?  How can we pick and choose only those words that don’t make us uncomfortable? These are things that I am praying the emergent church movement will rectify.  Someone needs to push us off the comfortable path of our own choosing and back on the path of Jesus’ teachings.  Someone needs to show us how to love our fellowman and to make it clear to us that include everyone else. Jesus was a radical. How has his church become so conservative?

Six Lessons to Learn in U.S. Christianity….

We spent the last two posts reviewing an article entitled “The Six Worst Things About American Christianity” from RedLetterChristians by Steven Mattson. Now that I have had a few days to digest these words I want to turn the article’s six points around to imagine them as lessons we U.S. Christians should learn. Here they are:

1) We must realize that no one has an exclusive connection with God  —  Much of what we know about early Christianity is the result of  a scribe writing down Christian stories that had been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years and even those original manuscripts have been lost to us. What we have now are copies of copies. Men throughout the ages have been penning their interpretations of what those original messages might have been.  This almost infinite list of opinions spreads from King Constantine and his council and Augustine in the fourth century to Luther and the other reformers in the 16th century all the way down to thousands of theologians at work today.

We must realize that none of these various man-made beliefs about God are without error. They might have been inspired by God but they were without question, even to the literalist, penned by men. The best thing that could happen to U.S. Christianity is that we would finally quit our “us” vs. “them” mentality of the various opinions of Christianity. We need to go back to kindergarten and learn to play nice with others. We need a little less bravado and a lot more humility.

2) We must not confuse our dedications to Jesus’ teachings and our political affiliations. — Neither U.S. political party at its roots are Christian. They are both mainly power based organization currently just wanting to force their worldviews on each other. The early Christians were very aware that God’s kingdom is not of this world. We need to re-learn those lessons. Don’t allow your Christianity to be hijacked for political purposes.

3) Christianity is counter-cultural — Christianity is not like the latest fad that is determined by our current cultural trends. We in the U.S. live in very shallow lifestyles. The teachings of Jesus are often very counter to what we endear in this country.

4) We don’t hold a “special” status with God — We in the U.S. have got to get it out of our minds that somehow God loves us more than he does others. God has agape love for all of his creation and by definition that is an infinite amount for each of us. How can some of us have more than and infinite amount of God’s love?  We may be the current biggest military and industrial force in the world and therefore have more than our say in what goes on in the world but that does NOT infer special status with God.

5) Remember, we Christians are meant to “march to the beat of a different drummer”.  — Jesus clearly told us again and again “don’t cling to your stuff”.  We in the U.S. are totally obsessed with consumerism. That is clearly not where Jesus wants us to be.

6) There is no such thing as a “power-hungry” Christian. — Jesus told us to have a servant mentality, not a master; that is very different from the U.S. culture teaches us. For us Christians it should never be about control or influence but instead about loving and caring.

The Times, They Are A-Changin….

This “new” Christianity is sick of culture wars, political agendas, hypocrisy and legalistic doctrines. They prefer inclusion over restriction, dialogue over debate, practice over preaching, and love over judgment. Authentic communities are preferred over institutionalized organizations, and grassroots groups gain wisdom and knowledge from relational interaction, social media, the web, and an array of other sources—there is no monopoly controlling leadership or sources of information…

And while many traditional Evangelicals decry this movement as being shallow, theologically weak and even heretical, many see it as a step in the right direction—a revolution similar to that of the early church: authentically living out Christ’s model of service, sacrifice and holistic love….

When it comes to following Christ, it’s easy to get distracted by things that don’t matter, and Satan is always trying to divide and destroy. This is how something as simple as following Christ’s example becomes a complicated mess filled with thousands of theologies, practices and conflicting beliefs.

Source: When Revolutions Become Religions – Stephen Mattson – Red Letter Christians.

The above words come from a blog that I am a regular visitor. It very much aligns with my views of religion and it also aligns with the title of this blog.  The story above is a discussion of the “emergent church” that is happening in much of the world today.

I find it totally disheartening that our most powerful Christian denominations in the U.S. today are so intertwined with the extreme radical right edge of our our political processes. The political agendas that are prevalent in that group run very counter to the teachings of Jesus, at least to me. Much of the evangelical community today seems to be more interested in rules and restrictions to keep their followers in line than they are about actually living as Christ taught us.

Something is drastically wrong when we find it necessary to divide into 39,000+ different versions of Jesus. This fact is not going unnoticed by the current younger generations. It is unlikely that they, like their mothers and fathers will return to established churches that cling to outdated agendas.

Many evangelicals have nothing but disdain for the emergents in their midst and yes there are many in their midsts, whether they recognize it or not. Many of the current religious leaders somehow believe that this new movement to get back to the roots of Christianity is a passing fancy. I see it as anything but that.  The movement is about living Jesus’ teaching instead of just listening and agreeing to what their leaders say about Jesus.  They are just too attuned to things that just don’t matter to many of us in the 21st century.

I am totally convinced that the emergent movement will eventually take back the church to its early roots. But to do that means tearing down some of the man-made rules and traditions that currently stifle that idea.  Yes, the times they are a-changin.

Early Christians and War….

While Tertullian emphasized the negative aspects of the military to Christian discipleship, Origen pointed out the positive vision of a life of Christian peacemaking. He criticized the army as a society of “professional violence,” pointing out that Jesus forbids any kind of violence or vengeance against another. “We will not raise arms against any other nation, we will not practice the art of war,” he wrote, “because through Jesus Christ we have become the children of peace.” To him the spiritual life means rejecting all forms of violence, and “absolute pacifism.”

A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story (Bass, Diana Butler)

I know I have mentioned this fact several times on this blog but it is worth talking about yet again. Most of the early Christians believed that being a soldier was just not compatible with being a Christian.  When Jesus told us that the two most important things in a Christian’s life is to love God and to love all your fellow-man that precluded an occupation directed toward killing others.  It was not until four hundred years later when Augustine penned his treatise on “just wars” did this even begin to be reversed.

Here are a couple of other quotes from this book related to Augustine:

Augustine (354–430), an adult convert to Christianity and the reluctant bishop of the North African city of Hippo, emerged as the dominant theologian of Constantinian Christianity. His questions shaped Western Christianity for more than a millennium. Perhaps no one struggled more than he to understand doctrine, practice, and the institution of the church in the new cultural context, as shown by his thousands of pages of theological speculation on politics, the church, the nature of God, and Christian living….

 Although he had written reams about original sin, predestination, the creeds, just war, and heresy, the mature Augustine returned to the central point of early Christianity: “This love embraces both the love of God and the love of our neighbor, and ‘on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’” 

Augustine, like Paul before him, was a prolific writer/thinker of his time. He, like me sometimes ;), had an opinion on just about everything. It was interesting to see that later in his life he basically came back to the original premise of Christianity.  I wonder what he would say if he were alive today about how so much of his words shaped Jesus’ religion. I wonder if he wished he could have taken back some of those initial thoughts?

I am somewhat of a believer in the thoughts of Thomas Jefferson that Augustine, along with St. Paul, took a very simple message of Jesus and made it complicated.

How did we get to the point today where so many Christians seem to  celebrate military conflict. They proudly encourage their children to become warriors  in our military. Many have almost made being a soldier a requirement for being a “real” Christian.

About The Bread…

Let’s continue on with our brief study of the Gospel of Mark. This time it will be about people’s faith and the Bread. I know that seems like two different things but let me try to tie them together.

During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said,  “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.  If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”...

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They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them:“Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened?  Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?  When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?“”Twelve,” they replied.

It is hard for me to imagine the frailty of their faith that the apostles continuously had in the messages and abilities of Jesus. Any of the miracles that he performed would have made me a firm and total believer. But, of course that is total speculation on my part. As an aside Thomas Jefferson believed that all the miracles  attached to Jesus were add by those wanting to enhance is divinity after he ascended into heaven. If that is the case then things change.

I kind of like the story about feeding the five thousand. I can’t imagine that many people sitting at the feet of Jesus for three days and without much food at that.  The apostles seemed to be oblivious to the fact that the people were probably hungry but Jesus having God’s agape love for everyone was very aware of their hunger both spiritually and physically.

The second part of the quote above is believed to be shortly after the first one and bread is again the subject matter.  Jesus seems very disappointed that his twelve did not seem to learn anything from the previous encounter with bread. I can imagine that he was continuously disappointed in the apostles’ action much like he is about almost all of our actions in today’s world.

The apostles just didn’t seem to “get it” and neither do so many of us.  But, I would kind of like to give us an excuse. We only have passed down verbal accounts of many of Jesus’ dealing and the accounts that we have have been interpreted in so many different ways as to be confusing even to educated theologians. Almost every one of the red letters has many different beliefs about them. Sometimes I think that man has just taken the simple messages of Jesus and made them complicated by all our passed down traditions and dogma.

Let’s get back to the basics and that is Jesus told us to love God with all our hearts and souls and to love each other. It couldn’t be simpler than that. How have we lost that basic message in the church today?